There Is No Expiration Date on Gratitude

For nearly four years, this large plastic jar stood sentry on our kitchen counter.

At the start of 2013, I was inspired to take an empty container of my whey protein powder and scribble in black marker on the side: “Good Things That Happened in 2013 For Which We Are Grateful.”

The premise was simple: I encouraged all of the family — Meg and Dan (who was still living at home at the time) — to take pieces of paper, write down what happened that they were grateful for, put the papers in the container and we would open and read the slips in a year’s time.

2014 came and went.

So did 2015.

And so did almost all of 2016.

Any number of times, Meg and I said we should pause to open the container but something else always took priority.

I would see the jar every morning on the breakfast bar and wonder if I was taking my blessings for granted.

The thing that I try to emphasize in our life is that while we might not be rolling in money, we are rich in other ways: We have our family, friends and health.

We are more fortunate than many others, who struggle with addictions or with putting a roof over their heads or food on the table.

While we might not have all we want, we certainly have all that we need and for that, I’m grateful.

Finally, last month – about two months before Thanksgiving — we spilled out the contents of the jar.

The folded pieces of paper featured Meg’s looping penmanship, Dan’s neat lettering and my scrawl in different colors – a reflection of whatever marker or pen I had handy at the time.

The things were thankful for ranged from the mundane…

That our tag sale was so successful.

Got to see eight movies in one week!

Getting good grades.

For spending time with friends in Lancaster. Fun!

To things related to health…

Opa is healthy after his heart surgery.

Dan was OK after a fall down the stairs.

Pat completes her cancer treatments.

 Doc gave me a clean bill of health.

To truly life and death…

Gratitude beyond telling: Everyone is fine after a crazy car crash.

That Dan’s friends helped him get through his shock and grief.

Friends and family can support each other when a friend passes.

That we go to see and interact with Uncle Andrew as much as we did before he died.

I am not a big believer in God or a Supreme Being so it puts me in an odd position of not being able to offer thanks to something or someone. But that does not mean I cannot be grateful for the grace in our lives.

Opening that jar and reading its content was like opening a time capsule.

It served as a useful way to remind us of the good things that happened in the past, to remain grateful for those things in the present and to remember that being thankful has no expiration date.